A hospital in Ahmedabad has been placing its coronavirus patients in different wards on the basis of their religious identity, claiming it was based on a decision made by the Gujarat government, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

At civil hospitals, patients are normally segregated on the basis of their gender, with separate wards for male and female persons. However, at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, where 1,200 beds have been set aside for coronavirus treatment, separate wards have been created for Hindu and Muslim patients. Medical Superintendent Dr Gunvant H Rathod told the newspaper the segregation was made as per a directive issued by the Gujarat government. “It is a decision of the government and you can ask them,” he said.

However, Deputy chief minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel strongly rebutted the claim. “I am not aware of such a decision [that wards have been segregated on the basis of faith].” Patel sad. “Generally, there are separate wards for males and females. I will enquire about it.”

Ahmedabad Collector KK Nirala also denied any knowledge of the matter. “There has been no such instruction from our side and we are not aware of any such government decision,” Nirala told the newspaper.

According to hospitalisation protocol, patients are kept in different wards based on their medical condition and the severity of their symptoms, keeping in mind other factors such as their age and the advice given by doctors who are treating them. A suspected Covid-19 case is kept in a separate ward from those confirmed, while the test results are pending.

An unidentified doctor at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital told The Hindu that some patients from the Hindu community were uncomfortable about sharing a same ward as Muslims. “After some patients complained, it was decided to segregate them on a temporary basis,” the doctor said.

As many as 150 of the 186 people admitted in the hospital for coronavirus have tested positive. Out of these, at least 40 are Muslims, unidentified officials told The Indian Express.

“On Sunday night, the names of 28 men admitted in the first ward [A-4] were called out,” a patient told the newspaper. “We were then shifted to another ward [C-4]. While we were not told why we were being shifted, all the names that were called out belonged to one community,” the patient added.

When asked the reason behind segregating patients, a staff member claimed it was done for “the comfort of both communities”, the patient said.

India has reported 11,439 cases of the coronavirus and 377 deaths so far.

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